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Essential travel items – like clothing and toiletries – are featured in most travel packing lists. However, we think there are everyday items for traveling that are just as important to be packed into your suitcase! Whether you are making a road trip packing list or organizing things to bring on vacation, we highly recommend these must-have items for travel!
Everyday Items for Traveling
When you start to gather your things to pack for a trip, make sure you add these household items to your vacation packing list!
Pro Tip: Our list of Everyday Items for Traveling are likely things you already have around the house, but we provide a handy link if it is an item you need to purchase.
#1 Resealable Plastic Bags (a.k.a. Ziplocks)
Resealable Plastic Bags are a traveler’s best friend. They are practically weightless, fit anywhere and have about a billion uses – which is why they are a must for your vacation packing list. I carry a variety of sizes to fit a plethora of scenarios.
Many travelers use zip-top bags to protect the interior of their luggage from liquids and lotions, but there are tons of reasons to pack a few extras. Planning a picnic lunch during your trip? Pack it in a Ziplock. Have a wet swimsuit on a travel day? Put it in a baggie. Collecting ticket stubs and trip memorabilia on your travels? Organize them in a resealable bag.
Honestly, there are so many uses for resealable bags that they reign as one of the top things to take on a trip.
Pro Tip: Ziplock bags are an easy, inexpensive and lightweight way to compartmentalize the things that I pack in my bag. I use one for my make-up, one for Q-tips and cotton swabs and one for some of the loose miscellaneous things I pack for traveling. In the past, I have even used gallon-sized bags to pack my clothes in a more organized manor (that was before I invested in Packing Cubes! Read more about Why I Love Packing Cubes!
#2 Binder Clips
Most people think of binder clips as office supplies, but in reality they are multi-purpose travel assistance pros that need to be on your trip packing list.
Does light come through the curtains in your accommodations? Use a binder clip to clasp them together. Have an open bag of snacks on your road trip? Use a binder clip to seal them tight. Need to hang some clothes in the breeze to air them out? Use a binder clip as a clothesline pin so they don’t blow away. Need a makeshift keyring? Squeeze off the handle and slip on the key. Has the binding on your guidebook given way? Use a binder clip to keep it together. Need to keep cords organized? Use a binder clip!
Pro Tip: We think binder clips are essential things to pack for traveling, but if you don’t have any around the house, clothes pins work almost as well!
#3 Safety Pins
As you determine what to bring on vacation, it’s important to remember a few ‘Just in Case’ items, like safety pins. In fact, safety pins come in handy just when you need them the most: Clothing Malfunctions. Whether it be a button popping off, a broken zipper or hem coming out, safety pins are perfect in a pinch.
Once on a plane, I was sitting next to a girl whose spaghetti strap ripped off her tank top, leaving her in an awkward predicament. Luckily, I had safety pins in my carry on bag and I was able to easily pin the strap back in place without anyone else even noticing.
Pro Tip: Safety pins are such small, effortless, everyday things to take on a trip that we suggest packing a few in your bag – and be sure to have both large and small pins for all unfortunate occasions that may occur.
#4 Wet Wipes
While I would never travel without anti-bacterial hand gel (read more about my Stay Healthy Travel Tips!), Wet Wipes are one of my top things to bring on a trip.
Not only are they excellent for cleaning hands on the go, they can also be used to disinfect toilet seats and public seating like buses, stadium chairs and park benches. The morning after a red-eye flight, wet wipes can be used in place of a shower or simply when you need freshening during a long day of sightseeing.
Pro Tip: Although I have traveled with wet wipes in a resealable plastic bag, they tend to dry out after a few days. For longer trips, buy travel size packets of wet wipes that will last your whole trip!
#5 Small Bar of Soap
Even with hand gel and wet wipes, a small bar of soap should be on your list of things to pack for a trip. Although we have found soap available and affordable the world over, bringing one with us guarantees we won’t be caught without it. (Not all accommodations provide soap, so we have learned.)
Pro Tip: Obviously, we use soap to wash our hands and bodies, but it also comes in handy when doing sink laundry (that is when you wash your socks and underwear by hand in the sink in your accommodations)! So, forget packing separate travel laundry tabs and just use your small bar of soap.
#6 Toilet Paper
And since we’re already talking underwear, we may as well talk toilet paper. Let me be frank: toilet paper is one of the top things to travel with; seriously, I don’t go anywhere without my own toilet paper.
If it wasn’t so bulky, I’d bring the whole roll. Instead, I tear off 10 3-piece lengths of toilet paper. Then, I fold them neatly and secure them in a resealable plastic bag.
Pro Tip: Rather than making your own T.P. stash, handy travel tissue packs can be used as toilet paper.
If the bandana is one thing and one thing only, it’s multi-purpose. It’s long list of uses include: covering unwashed hair, hiding delicate skin (like your neck) from the sun’s rays, washing dishes when there isn’t a sponge, washing your face when there isn’t a washcloth, holding ice cubes when you need a cold compress, covering pillows and headrests that have seen better days and, of course, being a hanky when you’ve run out of tissues. If you don’t already have a bandana for travel, put it on your list to pack for a trip.
Pro Tip: While there are many styles and colors of bandanas, we think it is best travel with one that is thin and lightweight.
#8 Trash Bag
Most people don’t think of a trash bag as one of the things to bring for travel, but – trust us – it can come in handy!
A trash bag can be a rainy day savior when traveling. In the case of a unexpected rain shower, bring the trash bag along on your sightseeing. If it starts to drizzle, tear a hole for your head and two for your arms and slip it on. It will work in a pinch, is lighter than a raincoat and less bulky than a travel umbrella.
Not keen on the fashion statement? It can still be useful to keep you dry. Lay it on wet benches or other soaked outdoor seating to fend off the moisture.
The trash bag can also be used on your return trip home – to store your dirty clothes and keep them separate from other items in your luggage.
Carabiner: The outdoorsman’s fastener – and one of the items that should always be on your Travel Essentials checklist. On our trips, we pack multiple carabiner clips that range in size and strength – they’re not just for climbing mountains!
So, what else do I use carabiners for? Clipping my flip flops to the outside of my bag while I walk barefoot in the sand. Fastening several grocery bags together for the walk back to my accommodations. Hanging my sink laundry washed underwear from the shower rod or hook to dry. Just to name a few!
#10 USB Flash Drive
If flash drives are not already on your list of items for travel, they should be! Although they may not seem like ‘fun’ things to take on vacation, there are two good reasons to bring them.
First, a flash drive can be used to store a complete set of your travel documents. Prior to the trip, save all of your trip documentation on the flash drive – copy of passport, flight details, hotel reservations, travel itineraries, trip excursions and online tickets. This can be a lifesaver in the event that any of these documents get left behind, go missing or get ruined en-route.
Second, the same USB flash drive can be used to store photos from your trip. Whether your SD card fills up during your travels or you just want a daily back up (which is especially pertinent in places where theft is an issue), you can download them to the flash drive while still traveling to ensure you will have your photos when you get home. Also, if you are traveling with a group, the flash drive is an easy way to transfer photos from your travel companions’ camera before you even get home.
Pro Tip: We travel with laptop computers, so it makes downloading photos to a flash drive quite easy. For those travelers who don’t travel with a computer, you can connect your phone directly to a USB flash drive with a handy adapter or, for iPhone and iPad users, you can use this iPhone Flash Drive!)
#11 Playing Cards
In today’s high-tech world, actual playing cards may seem a bit old fashioned, but we think they should be on your list of things to bring on a trip. Although they are not necessary items for travel, they can combat boredom in extreme cases – like during airport delays and on long-haul transportation. Internet isn’t always available, batteries die and sometimes it’s just nice to un-glue yourself from a glaring screen.
Pro Tip: In our opinion, playing cards are international travel essentials – especially if you plan on staying in hostels. When you meet fellow travelers, it can also be fun to play, learn or teach card games to your new friends.
#12 Bottle Opener
When we set off on our Around The World Trip, we left our bottle opener behind. Big mistake. We made it as far as our second destination before we had to (re)learn the art of popping the top off a beer bottle using a lighter. We won’t make that mistake again, as it is permanently on our list of things to pack on a trip.
Most countries don’t have strict laws regarding public consumption of alcoholic beverages. As such, picking up a few cold craft beers from the local brewery and enjoying them in a park or by the ocean at sunset is one of the fun ways to experience a place. However, many bottles don’t have twist off caps – and a bottle opener is necessary to uncap the bottle.
We carry a small bottle opener that doubles as a keychain (which is useful when our accommodations don’t provide one!). Wine drinkers should bring along a travel wine opener (but make sure it is TSA compliant!) – and travel wine glasses, too!
Pro Tip: We like this bottle opener and S-clip combo, but a multi-function travel tool is another excellent item to pack for a trip. You can find it and other unique travel items on our list of Unique Travel Gifts.
#13 Notebook and Pen
When I first started traveling, I thought of bringing a notebook only as a diary for my trip – but there are so many more reasons why a pen and notebook are good things to take while traveling.
While I do believe in keeping a journal during travel, I no longer think it is the only reason to travel with a notebook. My travel notebook is not only filled with trip details (which help when sorting out photos later!), but also tips from fellow travelers regarding sights and places of interest, contact information for new friends, common foreign language phrases and even sketches in an attempt to communicate while abroad (anyone can draw a picture of a chicken, right?!).
#14 Duct Tape
Duct Tape is hailed as king for do-it-yourself fixes, which is exactly why it should be on your list of stuff to pack for a trip! Whether it’s broken luggage clasps or falling apart shoes, count on duct tape to keep it all together.
Pro Tip: Mini-rolls of duct tape are sold with travelers in mind and are the perfect size for tossing in your suitcase. However, if you have a large roll of duct tape at home, you can make your own on-the-go duct tape. Just neatly wrap a 5-foot length of tape several times around a business card and create your own roll.
BONUS: Tennis Ball
Okay, a tennis ball is not one of the things we pack to travel, but we wish we did! Why, you may wonder. Because tennis balls are excellent for relieving painful muscles. Unfortunately, muscle pain is a common issue for travelers who travel on cramped long-haul flights and spend long days sightseeing.
Pro Tip: With a tennis ball, travelers can work out the kinks in their muscles in their feet, knees, shoulders, hands and hips! So, if you have room in your luggage, pack a tennis ball!
We Want To Know: What are your must-have everyday items for traveling? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments below!
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